Detection of Poisons in Food

Jan 14, 2014

Detection of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, MCHM. | The West Virginia Toxic Spill

ChemSee offers more information on 4-methylcyclohexane methanol and how to test for it in water.


4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), entered the municipal water system of nine counties in West Virginia and has contaminated the water tank, pumps, pipes and water delivery systems of this area. In general, similar viscous, not very water-soluble liquids tend to stay long time in pipes and in other water-delivery hardware and wash out initially very fast but then very slowly. Such viscous liquids tend to stick to surfaces in particular where pipes were welded, rusted, and when elbows and tees exist. Even if for a time the water that passes through the lines appear clear, a sudden change in pressure or flow rate or vibrations in the lines can dislodge globes of the viscous MCHM and send it back down to the user.

These phenomena necessitates that a quick way to check the water quality be available at the point of consumption to assure the user that excessive MCHM is not present in the water.

The MCHM-01 detector allows users to determine AT THE USER’S SITE, if the concentration of dissolved or suspended MCHM exceeds 0.01%. The LOW-COST TEST GIVES THE RESULTS INSTANTLY and is VERY SIMPLE TO USE.

Before and After Detection of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol

While it is desirable not to have ANY organic solvent in the water, including MCHM, because of the relatively low toxicity of MCHM, it is reasonable to assume that occasional use of water with less than 0.05% MCHM will not cause permanent harm.

The response of individuals to dermal exposure to MCHM varies as well as the sensitivity to ingestion of MCHM. Moreover, the sensitivity of individuals may vary with time and as a function of repeated exposure. Not much data is available for acute or chronic exposure to MCHM, thus, much of the available projections are based on comparative analogy to compounds with similar functional groups.

MCHM is colorless liquid with a faint mint-like odor of licorice and is classified as an alcohol. MCHM is a surface acting material otherwise known as a surfactant.

Little is known about MCHM's potential effects on human health, nor about its effects on aquatic environments. The chemical has hardly been studied.  The chemical smells sweet and is similar in scent to licorice. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, if consumed the chemical may provoke the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Reddened/Burning Skin and/or Eyes
  • Itching
  • Rashes
ChemSee offers an easy-to-use detector for 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol and to test if water is unsafe to drink.  The user is able to detect MCHM in less than two minutes.
These detectors are $5.00 per test plus shipping and handling and can be purchased below:
Number of Tests
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